Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Western States Story

Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau
Wow......it's finally starting to sink in that I won Western States. 

Running the last mile with my crew and finishing on the track in Auburn was one the greatest feelings ever. I was overcome with so many emotions: excitement, astonishment, gratitude, exhaustion..... 

Photo Credit: Chris Jones
That feeling of floating around the track, under the lights, is something I will remember for years to come. It still brings a smile to my face. 

To hear more about how my race unfolded, read my Western States Race Report.

Other cool interviews:
Photo credit: Stephanie Deveau
I really can't put into words what this day meant to me. So in the words of Zach, who ran with me for 38 miles and put up with me for weeks leading up to the race...

The Western States Story, according to Zach

The months leading up to the race were difficult. Steph was training a lot, I was traveling for work and we rarely saw each other. We did a few key training runs together (40 miles back to back on the Rogue river and the Memorial Day Western States training camp) so I knew she was in shape and almost as importantly, I was in good enough shape to keep up.

Pre-race hiking in Tahoe Donner
Steph headed down to Tahoe-Donner on Monday before the race to relax. I had to work and wasn’t able to leave until Thursday. Each day I’d get a text or email from Steph asking me to bring something she forgot, such as her hydration bladder and vest (yes she forgot this at home), a specific pair of socks that were in the laundry,  some extra flasks, etc. By Thursday I had a big bag of forgotten gear to take with me as I drove down with Ken & Denise. 

The days leading up to the race Steph was mostly calm and collected, but had a couple  nervous freak-outs. The night before the race I was out to dinner with friends while Steph stayed home to relax and organize her things for the morning. Around 7:30 I received a call from Steph asking me to come home. She was getting nervous and totally overthinking things [Author's Note- yes, I had a night-before-the-race freak out. I was totally fine until my Dad called to wish me good luck. Then I lost it. And I needed Zach to be there...sorry to cut your dinner short!] We went to bed at 8p on Friday night ready for an early morning.

The countdown is on!
Saturday Morning we got up at 3:20am and all the nervous jitters were gone. Steph was in race mode. She seemed well rested and ready to go. She got checked in, and we milled around waiting for the start. Steph promised one more time not to be the first woman to the escarpment, I said good luck and she lined up to start.  

Race Morning- Double D's!
Next thing I knew they were off and running (walking?) up the climb to the Escarpment. I didn't see Steph during those first few seconds but I was confident that should would be smart and race as well as she knows how to race.

Starting Line
We watched the little heads floating up the hill and then packed up the hotel room and drove to Auburn. We met the rest of the crew and my family and dropped cars so we could carpool from there. We then drove up to Robinson Flat for the first crewing station. 

Keeping her promise up to the Escarpment
Photo Credit: Tanner Johnson
Nearing the top
Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

Somewhere over the next 30 miles in the high country......

High Country
Photo Credit: Ultra Sports Live
Photo Credit: Ultra Sports Live
We were checking Twitter and Ultralive and getting good updates. Steph was in 2nd and about 6min behind Emily. At Robinson we got to watch the men go flying by with our own Max King out front. It was exciting and got us all fired up for Steph.  In fact it might have got me too fired up, from that point on I was the nervous one that couldn’t sit still.

Coming into Robinson Flat
Photo Credit: Nick Cifuentes
Photo Credit: Allen Lucas
Steph came in to Robinson Flat only a few minutes behind Emily and was looking very fresh. She was in and out of the aid station quickly and was in good spirits. We reminded her to stay calm and that we’d see her in a few hours. She was gone and then we were off to Michigan Bluff.

Cruising the downhills
Photo Credit: Glenn Tachiyama

We got to Michigan Bluff by 11:00am, then realized that she wouldn’t be there until 2:30p. With my energy and nervous excitement this was not going to be a good stretch and I learned that I am not a good crew person. I killed the fully charged battery in my phone while checking updates on iRunFar’s twitter and Ultralive. Max as still leading and Steph had taken the lead about 7min ahead of Emily. Then Steph was further ahead, but we didn’t know how much ahead. It was so exciting but updates were slow to come as they dropped in to the canyons. Next thing you know most of our cell phones died for checking them too often… We had to start playing the waiting game.

First River Crossing (aka Swinging Bridge)
Photo Credit: Michelle Siniard
A bit later Max came in still in good spirits and still leading. The entire Bend crew got even more excited! By this point I was fully pacing back and forth looking at the clock. 45min to go, 30min, 20min, 10min… Then we heard “First Woman!” from up the trail. 

The crew at work
Maybe you know this, but Steph is a type A personality (type AAA according to her mom), so she had a very specific plan as to what we should have at each aid station for her to eat. At Michigan Bluff she was supposed to grab a flask mixture with gels, which she planned to take for the next several hours. As she eyed the flask, she stated "Those aren't working for me". What? Wasn't that your plan? "Bloks, I only want bloks," was her solution. Ok, Clif shot bloks it was. The real question was what were we going to do at Foresthill on, since Steph had planned to take about 6 gel flasks for to get her through the rest of the race.
Photo credit: Stephen Ingalls
Cruising through some miles early on
Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau
Next stop was Foresthill. We decided that my brother, Phil, would wait at bath road and run to the aid station with Steph to find out what she needed. Meanwhile I’d help Steph through the aid station and then start pacing. Phil reported back to the rest of the crew that Steph only wanted bloks and soda for the rest of the race. We were able to get what she wanted quickly and get her in and out of Foresthill with less than a minute. Ok only 38 miles to go and she won’t be alone.

Cooling off at Foresthill
Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

We made it 100 yrds out of Foresthill before Steph stopped and started rubbing her knee. Huh? When did this happen, she is 20min in the lead and can’t have a bum knee!! She starting running again, with a little bit of a limp, but within 2-3 min her stride started to lengthen back out and we were rolling. 

I’ll be honest, Steph wasn’t in the best of places at this point in the day. Her stomach wasn’t allowing the food she wanted, her knee just suddenly started bothering her, and she was afraid she wouldn't be able to make it to the finish. I just kept saying to relax and that we were still putting in great miles. We were doing sub-10 min miles down Cal street and there was no need for concern.  I did have some concern, but just tried to stay positive for her. 
Starting down Cal Street

We ate away the miles and got to Cal 1 with a very solid average pace. We stopped to grab fuel and water and when we started again Steph was hobbling again. Not good! She said every time she stopped it hurt. So new plan, no more stopping.  She would walk through aid stations without stopping from now on. I’ll fill waters and we’ll just keep moving. The plan was to do the next 33 miles without her stopping except to get weighed.

Getting in and out of the aid stations fast
Photo Credit: Nick Ciefuntes
This plan seemed to be working. While she walked I’d fill her pack with water and get her Sprite in her small bottle (since that was almost all her stomach was allowing). We kept a very solid pace and got to the river with no more problems.

Cruising down Cal Street
Photo Credit: iRunFar/Gretchen Brugman

We choose to take the hill to up Green Gate at a very conservative pace to ensure that Steph could run the rest. Our crew met us there with news that we were now 24min in the lead. More Clif shot bloks, sprite, and water and we were on our way.  Only 22 miles to go. I think Steph finally realized that she could win this thing. The plan was just to maintain from there on out. Others would have to drastically speed up to catch, we would just keep a smooth steady pace. We kept rolling from there on with the only mistake being that I forgot to fill my own water at the Auburn Lakes Trail aid station. Darn it! I had to go the next 5 miles without water. 

River Crossing
Photo Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell
Browns bar couldn’t have come soon enough. With the Ashland party going on it was so much fun I almost forgot to fill up my water again. 

After Browns it got dark and we finally got the headlamps out. We kept rolling and Steph’s knee was responding to the plan. No pain and we were still putting in solid mile splits. We hit the climb to Hwy 49 and relaxed into it. We were still passing some of the men’s field and Steph was energized with the realization she could win it. We pushed through the climb and next thing you know we are at 49. Only 7 miles to go and she was still moving well. We grabbed more sprite, water & blocks and kept moving.

From there it was simply keep trucking. We rolled down to No Hands Bridge and Steph was sooo extremely excited to see Rebecca and Keith Bell (friends from Bend) at the aid station. Only one more massive climb and it would all be over. What was amazing is that we jogged most of that climb. Steph still had legs as we trotted up it only walking the steepest sections. The climb went by faster than expected and we hit pavement only to be reminded that the climb wasn’t done. 

Chris, Elisa, and Phil joined us and we started the final mile to the track.  They said it was 25+ min to the next woman. Steph was finally comfortable, waving and really savoring the moment. She was gong to win Western States in her first 100 miler! 

Photo Credit: Allen Lucas

We entered the track and there was so much energy. It was powerful to experience as a pacer, so I couldn’t imagine how Steph felt as the one that ran the whole thing.
Photo Credit: Allen Lucas

Steph crossed the line in 18:01:42 with the 4th fastest women’s time ever. Only Ellie Greenwood and Ann Trason being faster. What an amazing accomplishment! I expect to see that belt buckle worn often and the Cougar to be the centerpiece of living room.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau

Photo credit: Stephen Ingalls
Finish line interview with John Trent
Photo credit: Stephen Ingalls
Photo Credit: Stephanie Deveau

Thanks so much to my amazing crew: Chris & Elisa Cheng, Phil Violett, and Zach Violett who stayed up all night taking care of me! I couldn't have done it without you guys!! Elisa gets bonus points because she braided my hair the day before too :)

Also big thanks to my coach, Ian Torrence, who helped me get to the starting line fit, healthy, and confident!

Coach Ian and I
Rob and I showing off our belt buckles
Double for The North Face
Maybe the best surprise of the whole weekend.....

Thanks to my great friends!

And to Footzone and the running community of Bend- you guys are amazing! I have never felt so loved!!

Celebrating at Footzone
1 town, 4 belt buckles

And what am I up to now? A lot of nothing :)

Recovering. Poolside.
Hiking with my favorites
Admiring my Cougar :)